Book Reviews -- By: Anonymous
JETS 33:1 (March 1990) p. 95
Faith Misguided: Exposing the Dangers of Mysticism. By Arthur L. Johnson. Chicago: Moody, 1988, 156 pp., $6.95 paper.
“It is high time that the evangelical community awoke to the dangerous influences we have been harboring in our midst,” warns the author of this exposé of “evangelical mysticism” (151). The volume is a useful prolegomenon to the spiritual life. Johnson’s objective is forthright: to persuade Christians to renounce all traces of mysticism discernible in their own ranks for their spiritual well-being.
Johnson begins with a chapter on the nature of mysticism and promises a formal definition in terms of its psychological aspects, its philosophical implications, and its theological expressions (25). Unfortunately his “formal definition” is never given concise expression. The reader is on his own to piece these components of mysticism together. The result is something like the following: Mysticism is a psychological attitude of religious commitment rooted in the philosophical belief that knowledge and truth are accessible via inner subjective impressions that are frequently equated with the voice of God (25–26). Johnson’s critique of mysticism focuses on two constituents: its epistemological orientation, and the ramifications of this cognitive orientation for the spiritual life. This orientation may operate as a kind of functional presupposition for evangelical mystics who, perhaps unwittingly, adopt a mystical mindset in their efforts to grow and mature spiritually. The chief danger to the Christian consists in the likelihood of a subtle exchange of subjective experience for normative Scripture as the primary guide for the believer in both faith and practice. Mysticism subverts the authority of Scripture.
So that the reader will not conclude that Johnson is merely crying “Wolf!” he documents the intrusion of mystical trends in the evangelical community. The current evangelical fascination with subjectivism is manifested in a variety of ways: testimonies that stress the subjective dimensions of conversion and spiritual development; widespread conception of prayer as “conversing” with God; Bible “study” that reduces to feelings about what a passage “means to me”; dependence upon inner impressions for guidance concerning the will of God. In addition to these general tendencies are two historical developments that have reinforced this type of thinking. Johnson presents as evidence the case of Watchman Nee. Chapter 6 is an analysis of Nee’s teaching, which posits a nonrational, intuitive faculty of human nature that makes spiritual truth specially accessible. Pat Robertson, R. Foster, and A. W. Tozer are cited as additional examples of”sincere Christians” who make the same “tragic mistake” of identifyi...
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